National Park Service Urban Programs

Preserving Urban National Parks for all

The National Park Service (NPS) cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world. As the NPS looks to its second century of stewardship and public engagement, some of the greatest innovations are now occurring in urban spaces with investments in new parks, new park designs, and new ways to engage communities in creating healthy and livable cities. The NPS seeks to offer its assistance and active participation, listen to new perspectives, and help reinvigorate communities across the urban landscape.


Federal Lands to Parks Program gives federal lands to state and local governments to revitalize urban areas by promoting stewardship of their associated natural, cultural and recreational resources. This creates boosts to local economies and fosters a renewed sense of community among neighbors through community gardens, senior and cultural centers, and local parks. 

Groundwork USA receives support from the NPS and Environmental Protection Agency with funding and technical assistance to create Groundwork Trusts in urban areas. These trusts develop parks, restore trails and rivers, increase community access to healthy local food, create school and community gardens, provide education programs, and foster the next generation of leaders and stewards by giving students work experience and education and connecting them with their local National Parks.  

Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program leverages private investment in the reuse and preservation of our nation’s historic buildings. The program continues to attract private investment to historic cores of cities and Main Street towns across America which generates needed jobs, enhances property values, creates affordable housing, and increases federal, state and local government revenues. 

Land and Water Conservation Fund–State Assistance Program provides grant funding to local governments to help plan, acquire and develop high-quality outdoor recreation resources and protect these areas forever. Many of these resources are in urban areas, creating a legacy of high quality, close-to-home recreation areas where Americans and visitors of all ages and abilities can get outdoors to stretch their bodies and minds. 

National Historic Landmarks Program recognizes historic places with national significance and provides technical assistance to National Historic Landmark property owners. The program encourages citizens, public agencies, and private organizations to recognize, use, and learn from historic places to enhance livable and viable communities for the future 

The National Recreation Trails Program nationally recognizes local and regional trails in or easily accessible to urban areas, acknowledging local and state efforts to build and maintain valuable trails and trail systems, including National Water Trails. In addition to the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, NPS develops trail systems to connect urban areas with federal lands and helps local community organizations plan and implement their own conservation and recreation goals within their city parks. 

National Register of Historic Places supports identifying, evaluating, and protecting America’s historic and archeological properties, recognizing a property’s significance based on national standards used by every state. Many of these buildings, sites, districts, structures, and objects listed on the National Register are in urban areas, empowering people to see, learn about, and protect the history in their own communities.   

Natural Resources & Science team conducts and supports scientific activities in the parks of the National Capital Area. This includes the Urban Ecology Research Learning Alliance that translate research results into readily understandable information, providing research, education, and technical assistance for parks. 

National Wild and Scenic Rivers Program promotes collaborative management of rivers throughout the country, involving communities in protecting their waterways for current and future generations. A number of the designated rivers flow through metropolitan areas with the goal of enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities and encouraging environmental education and watershed awareness.  

Urban Parks and Programs have built off of the Urban Agenda Call to Action Initiative for the NPS to strategically organize its many urban parks and programs towards building relevancy for all Americans, connecting with their lives where they live.

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